AUSTIN, Texas -- While many are worried about the opioid epidemic, Austin-Travis County EMS is concerned with Xanax usage among local teens.
Capt. Jason Beggs crunched the numbers to find out just how prevalent certain drugs are. The number of K2-related overdose calls wasn't surprising. From January 2015 to June 2017 there were 159 calls involving teenagers. During that same timeframe, EMS went on 140 Xanax-related overdose calls. The average age of the youths who overdosd was from 11 to 17. The youngest overdose involved a 1-year-old.
"It was surprising to find out we were 19 patients away from K2 to Xanax," Beggs said.
The generic term for the drug is Alprazolam. It's often used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. The drug can be addictive, but can also cause side effects like paranoia and suicidal thoughts.
"Peer pressure is a strong thing and this age group is more curious. They are looking for a euphoric effect and sometimes that's not the effect they end up getting," Beggs said.
Dr. Sujit Iyer, assistant medical director at Dell Children's Hospital, said it's not uncommon for him to see a teen patient in his ER who has abused the drug.
"It's the most common medication prescribed in the United States now," Iyer said. "Children tend to abuse it because if they are feeling anxious or depressed. They will often use this medication much like people use alcohol - to make themselves feel better."
Iyer explained teens can abuse their own prescription, take pills from a parent, friend, or even find it on the internet. He said the best solution for parents is to talk it out with their kids and keep the medication hidden.
"Just an open conversation just as they would about alcohol, just like they would about using painkillers," said Iyer. "Xanax should not just be left around with easy access."
If your child has a prescription, Iyer recommends keeping the medication secure and only giving out the prescribed dosage. If you are a parent with a prescription, keep track of how much medication you have taken.